World News Brief, Wednesday December 5

NATO foreign ministers expected to approve Turkey's request for deployment of Patriot missiles; Vietnam boosts patrols in South China Sea; official campaigning for Japanese election kicks off; Iran claims it captured US drone; Rwandans react to UK aid freeze; and more

Top of the Agenda: Bolstering Turkey's Air Defenses

NATO foreign ministers are expected Tuesday to approve Turkey's request for the deployment of Patriot missiles (AlJazeera) that would bolster Turkey's air defenses and counter a threat from Syria, shortly after Washington bluntly warned Damascus against the possible use of chemical weapons. Reports surfaced that Syria had begun mixing chemicals that could be used to make sarin (AFP), a deadly nerve agent, and could deploy the gas in an attack on advancing rebels. Ministers from the twenty-eight-nation alliance are expected to give their backing when they meet in Brussels for a biannual meeting in a move that Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, has firmly opposed.


"The risk is that a Western air campaign would not end the fighting in Syria, but simply change the direction of the conflict. To prevent that, the West might then feel compelled to send a large 'stabilisation force' into Syria. But any such talk immediately raises the spectres of Iraq and Afghanistan," writes Gideon Rachman for the Financial Times.

"While Patriot can reach into Syrian airspace, NATO is at pains to stress that this is in no sense a step towards establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Nonetheless, NATO may also hope that there will be a deterrent effect that may dissuade Syria from operating its aircraft too close to the Turkish frontier," writes Jonathan Marcus for the BBC.

"It can easily be said that NATO is now extending its threat assessments further, and the Russian worry does have some basis. Plus, with NATO approval of Patriot deployment, Ankara has saved itself from a potential political trap that the civil war in Syria would turn into a bilateral matter. Instead, it is now an international one," writes Murat Yetkin for Hurriyet.



Vietnam Boosts Patrols in South China Sea

Vietnam is launching patrols in late January to guard its fisheries (Reuters) in the South China Sea after a state company accused Chinese boats of aggression and India said it was ready to deploy naval vessels to protect its interests in the disputed waters. The move dovetails with mounting tension in the region, where China has insisted on claiming sovereignty.

JAPAN: Official campaigning for Japan's December 16 elections kicked off on Tuesday (JapanTimes), with key issues including nuclear power, the struggling economy, and recent strained ties with China and South Korea at the top of the agenda.

CFR's Sheila Smith asks whether Japan is in decline in this blog series.



Iran claims it captured US drone

Rwandans react to UK aid freeze


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